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Our science and contacts (MCMB)


The Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board is responsible for MRC’s investments seeking to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underpin complex biological function in human health and disease, and supporting the early translation of knowledge towards new diagnosis and treatment, and changes to policy and practice.

The Board seeks to extend our understanding of structure-function insights of molecules and complexes, how the cellular environment functions during development and mature states, and how biological systems respond to external insults (e.g. drugs and toxins) and disease states. The Board leads MRC’s investments in cancer, from fundamental discovery science to epidemiology, experimental medicine and early translation.

Research focused on specific organ systems or diseases (with the exception of cancer and haematology) is normally managed through our other Research Boards

MCMB supports research relevant to both human health and disease, including fundamental discovery science that is likely to inform research on health or disease. A joint MRC/BBSRC statement on areas of common interest discusses this in more detail.

All proposals anticipating MRC expenditure greater than £3m should be discussed with the named Programme Manager below.

Applications involving human embryonic stem cells should comply with the UK Code of Practice for Use of Human Stem Cells  (PDF, 502KB)and seek approval as necessary from the UK Stem Cell Bank steering committee for the use of human embryonic stem cell lines in the UK.

Approval from the steering committee for MRC supported research involving human embryonic stem cells is an absolute requirement before work can begin. Where prior approval has been granted, the steering committee and appropriate project approval reference should be included in the ethics section of the Je-S proposal form.

View our current open funding calls.

MCMB accepts different types of applications. Any questions regarding the science that MCMB supports and submitting an application for funding should be directed to the relevant Programme Manager below.

Board opportunities

The Board has identified the following strategic opportunities and wishes to encourage high-quality proposals that seek to address them; these are discussed in greater detail in Board Strategy.

  • Understanding dynamic biological systems – application of state-of-the-art technologies, quantitative analytical tools and systems approaches to understand complex and dynamic biology at different scales in health and disease: genotype-to-phenotype, single cells, tissue, organism (including human and model systems).
  • Exposures, biological mechanisms and disease – analysis of multi-dimensional data (including exposure data, biomarkers of exposure and effect, and analytical data from molecular/cellular/physiological readouts) to study insults and causal pathways of disease, and the influence of genotype on these. The development of computational models and experimental challenge systems to study exposures, biological effects and causal pathways.
  • Radiation oncology & biology – research that seeks to better understand the biological effects of radiation exposure on normal and malignant tissue at the molecular, cellular, tissue and organ levels, and the application of this knowledge to improve radiation treatment.
These will be used by MCMB to prioritise investments during funding discussions, together with the following three cross-Board opportunities:
  • New Investigator Research Grants - supporting researchers towards becoming independent investigators.
  • Experimental medicine - understanding disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets using human participants.
  • Advanced therapeutics - including cell/gene therapy, regenerative medicine, innovative medicines.

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Science areas

In the context of the above, MCMB supports the following:

  • Cell biology
    Understanding the fundamental properties, structure and function of the cell and how it responds to and influences its local environment
  • Structural biology and biophysics
    Understanding the atomic organisation of molecules and macromolecular complexes and the dynamic, functional relationships between these components in cells and biological systems.
  • Molecular and functional genetics, epigenetics, genomics
    Understanding the fundamental mechanisms of replication, gene regulation and functional genetics/genomics.
  • Developmental and stem cell biology (excluding neurobiology), and mechanisms underpinning regenerative medicine
    Understanding the mechanisms of development, differentiation, growth and regeneration at the molecular, genetic and cellular levels. Regenerative medicine research that moves beyond underpinning mechanisms and focuses on particular organs or tissues, other than haematology, are likely better suited to one of the other Research Boards. Projects focused on therapeutic development and testing would need to be submitted to one of MRC’s translation research funding schemes.
  • Molecular haematology
    Investigating mechanisms underpinning blood diseases at the molecular, genetic, cellular and systems levels, including aetiology and prognosis.
  • New tools and technologies
    Development and application of chemical, biological and physical tools to study and manipulate biological systems relevant to health and disease (e.g. nanotechnology, synthetic biology and gene/cell therapy).
  • Medical bioinformatics (including biostatistics, computational biology and systems biology)
    Development and application of analytical approaches to understand biological mechanisms in hu man health and disease. Research pursuing the linkage and integrative analysis of data across different scales (macromolecular, subcellular, cellular, tissue and organism) and or various high-throughput and quantitative approaches (e.g. ‘omics) to understand complex and dynamic biological function.
  • Cancer
    Basic cancer biology, translational research and epidemiology, including exploring the mechanisms of existing/new therapeutics (small molecules, radiation and biologics ) and the adverse health effects of exposure to radiation.
  • Toxicology and adverse health effects of environmental exposures
    Exploring the causal pathways and mechanisms through which toxic insults (environmental agents, xenobiotics, adverse drug reactions, radiation etc.) cause adverse outcomes and ill health. Developing and applying measurements of exposure and biological effect to improve our understanding of how the environment interacts with and perturbs biological systems and impacts on health.
  • Pharmacology
    Understanding the mechanisms of drug action at molecular, cellular and systems levels to improve efficacy and targeting (including through stratification), and to minimise adverse / off-target effects.

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Science contacts

Programme Managers within each Research Board act as the primary knowledge-holders and community interface within their research areas, and manage the peer review of associated applications. Please contact the relevant Programme Manager (shown below) if you have any questions regarding the scientific aspects of your research proposal, including MRC or MCMB remit and insights into what is/is not likely to align with the interests and expectations of MCMB.

Programme Manager for cell biology, physical sciences and research facilities

Dr Katherine Lutteroth -

Scientific patch:

  • Cell biology (excluding neurobiology) underpinning our understanding of health and disease.*
  • Tools and technologies (including interdisciplinary technology development at the physical sciences interface).
  • Large multi-user research facilities.
* Applications relating to particular organ systems or diseases (with the exception of cancer and haematology) should be normally directed to our other Research Boards.

Programme Manager for structural studies

Dr Anne McGavigan –

Scientific patch:

  • Structural biology and biophysical approaches to understand biological function.
  • Medical bioinformatics (including biostatistics, computational biology and systems biology).

Programme Manager for genetics, epigenetics, genomics

Dr Lindsay Wilson –

Scientific patch:

  • Genetics, epigenetics and genomics underpinning our understanding of health and disease - applications relating to particular organ systems or disease (with the exception of cancer and haematology) should be normally directed to our other research boards.

Programme Manager for stem cells, developmental biology, regenerative medicine and haematology

Currently vacant – contact

Scientific patch:

  • General stem cell research.
  • Underpinning research into regenerative medicine.
  • Developmental biology (excluding neurological development).
  • Haematology.

Programme Manager for environmental health, pharmacology and toxicology 

Dr Tim Cullingford –

Scientific patch:

  • Toxicology, including the study of causal pathways linking insult to adverse outcomes and pathology and the development and study of experimental challenge systems.
  • Pharmacology - understanding the mechanisms of drug action at molecular, cellular and systems levels to improve efficacy and targeting (including through stratification), and to minimise adverse / off-target effects.
  • Environmental exposures affecting health, including biomarkers of exposure and effect and associated biological pathways.

Programme Manager for cancer

Dr Mariana Delfino-Machin –

Scientific patch:

  • Cancer biology (including but not limited to dysregulation of molecular mechanisms and carcinogenesis, tumour metabolism, tumour heterogeneity, microenvironment interactions, metastasis).
  • Radiobiology biology and oncology.
  • Genome damage stability (in relation to the pre-disposition and development of cancer).
  • Exploratory clinical cancer research (including patient stratification, early diagnosis, investigation of novel therapeutic targets, pre-clinical development, and first-in-human studies).
  • Cancer epidemiology.

Programme Manager for methodology and clinical research

The MRC supports methodology research through the MRC-NIHR Methodology Research Programme.

Please contact Dr Samuel Rowley for further information –

Other contacts

General pre-award policy and eligibility enquiries

Research Funding Policy and Delivery:

For general MCMB enquiries please contact:

Interim Head of Molecular and Cellular Medicine

Dr Megan Dowie –

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